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200                                     VERDICT  OX  INDIA

from the wretches in the gutters, the rats grew bolder; they did
not hurry when they crawled over the body of a child ; they paused
.. .you saw their bright eyes twinkle, as though in anticipation.

No film director would have passed films like that; he would
have been accused of parody.

Yet this was no parody ; it was plain fact. Of all the stories they
told me, before visiting Calcutta,, the one which sounded least
convincing concerned the fights for food-refuse which were
alleged to be taking place round the municipal dustbins. This
story was printed so often, and always with such a wealth of
harrowing detail, that it sounded bogus. Yet it was precisely this
story that I saw being played in real life within a few hours or
arrival. I was walking down a side-street when there was the cry
of a child. I looked back. There on the pavement the child lay
sprawling ; it had been hurled away from a bin by its father who
was himself plunging one hand into an indescribable collection of
garbage, while with the other hand he fought off the rest of the
family. They were snarling and wailing like exhausted animals and
from time to time lifted some loathsome scrap of refuse to their

I went to Calcutta at the height of the famine because Mrs.
Naidu had said in Hyderabad, that e this crisis has done more to
undermine the prestige of the British raj than fifty years of
Congress propaganda/
Mrs. Naidu, needless to say, welcomed this fact—if fact it was.
The qualification is necessary because some of Mrs. Naidu *s facts,
which were typical of the Congress propaganda, were somewhat
akin to wishful thinking. For instance, she was apparently con-
vinced that one of the major causes of the famine was the greed of
the army. Such a suggestion will not bear a moment's examina-
tion, firstly because the British army did not eat rice, and secondly
because the Indian army would have been eating rice in any case,
whether they were in uniform or out of it. The atmosphere of
the Naidu household was thick with such 'facts.' Another